PR/Media Week in Review 06-28-2009

Mark Rose, Editor, PRBlogNews, Week in Review 06-28-2009If you’re news junkie like me it doesn’t get better than last week. We started out with “Neda” and a bloody crackdown in Iran, Farrah Fawcett finally succumbing in Hollywood, quickly eclipsed by Mark Sanford in South Carolina confusing Argentina for the Appalachian Trail (“Buenos Airhead,” the cover of the NY Post said) – all trumped by Michael Jackson’s ultimate Hollywood ending.

News events last week re-defined and strained the limits of social media. Twitter, blogs, and Facebook proved to be a valuable if inadequate resource in Iran. Twitter crashed a few times under the deluge of Michael-mania, proving that nothing resuscitates a career like death.  Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the previous ‘King,’ shared her thoughts of marriage to Michael and the premonition that he would die like her Dad, on her MySpace page., the ultimate insider Hollywood news source, first reported Michael’s death.

More and more, social media transforms how news is created, packaged and disseminated. Increasingly, traditional media follows social media in breaking news, and then reports on reaction through social media channels. It is demoralizing to see that Twitter could not topple a government in Iran – it will take more time, chipping away at the blockages of a totalitarian regime. We thought that 20 years ago Tiananmen Square was the beginning of the end for the Chinese regime – but that was before Twitter and Facebook. For now, guns, batons and the apparatus of repression trump cell phone cameras. #iranelection news on Twitter is moribund but it exists.

The Michael Jackson news will play out through the week. Remember the long line of white Cadillacs for Elvis’ funeral? I’m sure that Michael, who took showboating to a grander level, will top that. There is the suspect doctor, the drugs, another autopsy, toxicology, the battles over the estate, the talk show appearances and the revelations that will be packaged in books. The world has a large appetite for Michael Jackson news.

Today, we hear that Mark Sanford will not resign as Governor of South Carolina. Sure, what else can this bozo do but be a politician? Now that he has been found we see how lost he really is.

Video of the Week

#iranelection update

 #iranelectionThe battle in Iran has progessed from a dispute about election results to a fight for for liberation that needs the support of all bloggers and social media communicators.

Foreign governments cannot interfere in the internal workings of Iran but the worldwide blogging community can. Sooner or later information will break through, if it is pushed through enough channels.

  • Watch this eloquent, passionate video appeal from Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the great Iranian filmmaker who spoke from Rome on Tuesday to Iranians abroad (in Farsi with English subtitles): “We need to work collectively to spread information coming out of Iran … we have found each other again”

Re-purposed from THE LEDE, The New York Times: 6/24/09 Update | 6:56 p.m. On the New Yorker’s Web site, Laura Secor argues against the theory that there is a fierce battle for power going on behind the scenes in Iran, and that only the fights between clerics matter. This is interesting.  Later in the day the Times published a news story arguing the opposite – that Iran has been taken over by militarists and clerics have been pushed aside. Does anybody really know what is going on in Iran? It is the new “Iron Curtain.” Ms. Secor writes:

The struggle in Iran, we are hearing, really comes down to a fight among the élites inside the power structure.

It is clearly true that Iran’s élites are disunited, but to place great emphasis on this fact is misleading. Factional differences have riven the Iranian political establishment since the Islamic Revolution itself, and sometimes quite dramatically, as during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, from 1997 through 2005. As for Rafsanjani, about whose possible role much has been made, he has been a rival of Ahmadinejad since losing the presidency to him in 2005; this has increasingly driven him toward the reformist camp, where he has been accepted only partially and reluctantly. None of these cleavages are new. In a country that does not tolerate political parties or associations in its civil society, the contest for power, and over the future of the political system, has been largely confined to the establishment itself. Khamenei has spent much of his twenty years in power checkmating his rivals inside the system and discrediting them with their supporters outside the system.

What is new today is not that cracks have opened inside a monolithic system, or even that particularly powerful figures, like Rafsanjani, have broken onto the side of the reformers. What is new is the fierce mass movement from below, which is not confined to students and intellectuals but seems to span demographics and age groups. Even while exercising legal rights, nonviolent methods, and issuing constant appeals to Islam and to the ideals of the revolution, this movement has openly defied Khamenei, the Basij, and the Revolutionary Guards, by ignoring the threats of bloodshed and mayhem. Nothing like that has happened in thirty years.

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Cyber War In Iran Escalates #iranelection

#iranelection – the ‘hashtag’ Twitter stream – has become the news wire of the Iran resistance.

Great way to follow #iranelection is on Twub with tweet feed, aggregated pictures and videos. The tweet feed is real time, meaning several tweets per second (the Twub widget in the right hand column of this blog is slower).

‘Changing timezones can save lives’ says one tweet on #iranelection. They want all bloggers and tweeters to confuse the Iranian authorities in an escalating, dangerous cyber war. ‘Do not re-tweet Iranian names’ says another. URGENT RT: Police checking cellphones for videos and pictures, transfer your files and clean up your phone #iranelection

On-the-scene photos and videos have significantly decreased in the past couple of days – the authorities do not want another ‘Neda’ martyr on their hands.

Between the earnest and helpful tweets on #iranelection are messages of provocateurs, scam artists and the lurking Iranian authorities, who bought the best minds of our allies to plan massive cyber subterfuge – what we are now witnessing. #iranelection is a real-time example of how an impromptu, global news and opinion network can self-sustain and self-moderate. Combined with YouTube, Facebook and blogs, #iranelection has become the information lifeline of Iranian protesters.

One way to simultaneously follow your own Twitter stream and #iranelection is through Seesmic on your desktop. See screen capture below.


Blogging And the Media – Lessons From Iran

Last week I was a panelist at the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, in New York on ”Blogging’s Role in Today’s Media”  

“What is the most important thing Twitter has done?,” someone asked at the event. “Iran,” I said, without hesitation.

That was last Thursday, before Neda bleeding to death before our eyes, before Allah o Akbar careening like an eerie screech for help through the Tehran night (see YouTube video above), before the tear gas and the clubbings and the brutal robocop security forces.

The topic at ASJA was blogging but Twitter and other social media tools naturally entered the discussion. It’s all connected and all media, established and emerging, traditional and new, singular and organizational, is hooked to the web and pushed out through various social media channels.

The traditional media was easily corralled and controlled by the Iranian government – the ’wild’ media is in the streets with cell phone cameras and filming from their apartments. In Iran, twittering is a revolutionary act. Security forces pursue the citizen with the cell phone camera as if they are a criminal with a lethal weapon. 

If we need clear proof of the radical shift in media – here it is. Bloggers trump ‘journalists’ getting first-hand news in Iran. Mainstream media nurtures reliable blogging sources, as they call them, to get the news while ‘real’ journalists are holed up impotently in hotel rooms.

Iran is not about Islam vs the West, Persians vs the Jews, old vs new. It is about the hunger to know, to have a free flow of information, the right to speak out. We are also a revolutionary society. We fought and died for our freedoms and suffered a brutal civil war. Freedom of the press and the right to assemble and express our opinions is deeply ingrained in our consciousness – we take it for granted. That is why the Iranian people cry out at night – they want their voices heard. That is why social media is so important – it gives them the platform, the megaphone. Somewhere, someone hears them. And that gives a small measure of comfort that their voices can build to a powerful chorus for change that cannot be denied.

The Greening of Social Media for Iran Democracy

'Neda' on Twitpic‘Neda” is her name (left) – she has become the rallying cry for Iranian protestors and a martyr for the cause. Videos show her with her father, like thousands of others, at a demonstration in Tehran.  Then she is on the ground, bleeding profusely and dying, her father holding her, others screaming. Who shot her? In this ‘unverified’ news world we now live in, no one can say for sure. Neda now qualifies for her own Twitter hashtag #Neda.

Street demonstrations are looming today in Iran to pay respects to Neda and other martyrs of the Twitter Revolution in Iran.

Where can you follow the news?

How can you show support?

Go 'green' - support democracy in Iran